Thierry Neuville has opened up a comfortable early lead on the opening loop of the Rallye Monte Carlo as main rival Sebastien Ogier suffered an off and front runners Kris Meeke and Juho Hanninen crashed out.

Having started the first proper day of action with a slender overnight lead from Ogier, Hyundai's Neuville was quickest through two of the morning's three stages to end up more than half a minute clear of Ott Tanak, who topped SS3.

Neuville and Tanak's causes were aided significantly by their main rivals hitting problems over the course of the three tricky stages, with Ogier suffering an off in SS3 and losing more than 40secs to the leaders in eighth. Despite this, the Frenchman was back up to speed for the remainder of the morning in the M-Sport Ford Fiesta and has recovered to third, just under a minute behind Neuville.

There was worse luck for Citroen's Meeke and Toyota's Hanninen though after the pair slid off on SS4 and SS5 respectively having been holding down provisional podium positions behind the trouble-free Neuville and Tanak

Their misfortune means Jari-Matti Latvala is leading the Toyota challenge in fourth place, albeit a distant 1min 20secs off the lead, with Dani Sordo fifth in the second Hyundai.

With both new Citroen C3s hitting problems - Stephane Lefebvre running down the order after restarting this morning -, Craig Breen heads the French firm's challenge now, albeit in the dated DS3.

Elsewhere, Hayden Paddon has been retired from the rally as a mark of respect to the spectator who died following his accident on SS1, while DMACK Ford's Elfyn Evans is down in ninth after losing 5mins with an off on SS3 at the same point Ogier went off.

In WRC2, Andres Mikkelsen has established a clear early lead for Skoda in seventh overall, 1m 22secs up on Fabia counterpart Pontus Tidemand.